An Entrepreneur’s Diary: Getting Personal.
Posted March 31, 2008on:
I usually avoid mixing my personal emotions and sentiments into what is supposed to be an alternative lifestyle. But I realize that I am probably avoiding the one topic that comes much closer to home for most entrepreneurs.
As much we do talk about the fact that India is rising, India is racing, or the India which is stuck on the Marathalli bridge, the brutal and honest truth about the topic of entrepreneurship is that, if you are planning to start out, there are two things you might want to do: One, make sure that you already took a loan out to get that two wheeler or that house that you’ve been meaning to buy cause while you are running your own company you will realize that you wont get calls from credit card lenders or loan providers for a really long time. You simply don’t qualify. The next thing you don’t qualify for, is for a bride or for a groom. So If you are starting out, I hope and pray to God that its either one of the two following cases: Either you are already married and your better half is in total agreement with your madness to go chase a dream, or you are ready to swing it, are not married, have no intentions of marriage and do have the total confidence and the focus of a monk to hit a home run.
The one thing that you miss, being an entrepreneur is the social life. Bootstrapping can be a long and painful process and the only thing that will make it much more worse is the realization of the fact that the journey of an entrepreneur is a lonely one. The lines, being alone even when you are in a crowd resonate to be true than ever.
Making that big leap to chase your dreams is all about passion right? Do keep this in mind though: They say and I often quote that the philosophers of Rome started getting busy philosophizing only when there was peace around, bread to eat, and wine to drink. Until such time there is no time for philosophy. One is much more occupied fighting the everyday struggles of existence. There is a similar parallel that runs with one that is crazy enough to chase dreams.
You need three things taken care of, says a very wise man. You need to have your health in good shape, you need your family well taken care of, and you need enough financial stability to dare something beyond where you are right now. If Health, Emotional and financial stability are in place, I think most things are in order. Its then, and only then that you should even think about daring a little.
Quite recently, I met a couple who were quite keen on starting off. I came to know that he had quit a job from Infosys, and she had quit her job recently as well since they had a new baby just months before. Both of them were technically unemployed and they seemed quite convinced that the next venture that the man was aiming for will get them the freedom that they wanted – in terms of time and finances. After listening to what he was working on for half an hour, I realized that he still has no clue as to what he wants to do and how he will make money. It had already been a year since he had been working on that train of thought and he wanted another three years to get his hand dirty and figure out what the need is. I knew I was young and he was much older than I am, but I did the right thing by asking him to fix a deadline within 45 days and make up his mind whether he is going to get his focus or take up a job. Life will never forgive you if you even dare come close to deserting those who solely depend on you. That’s a principle that I jotted down long time ago and it holds true so far: Care and protect the things entrusted to you.
We are certainly a rare and daring breed of people. I smile everytime I enter the office seeing the board which says “You are a crank till what you are building works” and its true. If there is a line that can be credited to an entrepreneur, its the phrase “they will their imaginations into existence”. That’s as good as it gets. We are a stubborn, bold, loud, embarrassingly different lot who live in their thoughts, dreaming and always a second ahead of where the world lies currently.
But, I’m lately realizing that there are similar other breeds. While an entrepreneur is business-focused, there are artists, writers, painters, singers, musicians, dancers, actors, who pretty much have the exact same mentality as that of an entrepreneur. Passion and determination is what drives all of them. The first voice that I heard in my mind was “Phew, We are not alone.”
On a personal note though, I am afraid. I cant think of the last time that my mind came to a slow pace to get into the “normality” of life. There is always a gear churning at the back of my head that is calculating something, putting together pieces of the puzzles of information, networks, people and connections figuring out where to leap next. There is just about never a dull moment. This kind of madness also at times makes us a breed not so very desirable. There are frequent occassions where “space” and “thinking time” is absolutely crucial and I do withdraw away from the world into my oasis – without which I know I would mentally get into a rut and agonize more. I know I need someone who understands this madness. I doubt one who doesnt think, or can even relate can last for long and there are enough stories out there or artists, amazing musicians, and entrepreneurs whose social and personal lives are the jokes of rag town.
I’ve come quite close to getting to know quite a like minded people. I even met a very pleasant girl who probably, if I may say so, appealed sheerly cause of her madness, and for her heart that was driven by passion. I knew I had felt that same rush somewhere before.There is definitely hope on that matter. I know there is.
With more than 50% of India being under the age of 25, and a very confident and patriotic nation that is emerging, we are going to see more and more people chasing their dreams, even if its not for the monetary benefits. More and more we are going to see a tide of people who do not accept things for what they are, but demand what they envision within their heads, and people who understand that madness. More and more we are going to see social customs and traditions that surround weddings, the circle of friends, and our social circle evolve into much more complex in a very simplistic manner – the dreamers and those who live in the present dividing. We are also the generation which will struggle to bridge the divide between the two, wanting to let go of neither side, but as we are built and mentally wired, wanting to have both. The genius and madness of the “And” does reign supreme most times.
I am writing this because I come across a lot of very young entrepreneurs. I meet guys who are in relationships, who are trying to figure out that in the world of entrepreneurship, and vicious business and survival tactics someone had forgotten to mention how personal lives are affected.
If you want to start out, ensure that you do balance the three. Make sure you make time for health, your relationships and ensure that you don’t end up on the street without a roof over your head.
While I was in Canada and was bootstrapping, we had a rule within the team that if any of us should date someone, and is serious about them, we should bring them over to meet the rest of the team and get acquainted. We realized that its probably the easiest way to stop the guy/gal from getting distracted and at the sametime make sure that the potential spouse is not wondering about the gang of hooligans that the potential is “bootstrapping” a company with. Psychologically, the period when one is under the influence of love and romance are supposed to be one of the creative peaks of a person’s life. We would have to be crazy to miss out on that opportunity. And we made sure we didn’t. That said, inter-office romance is a strategy that is used by big corporations to keep their attrition low. Within a startup, especially if it doesnt work out, it can almost run the risk of splitting the team into a million pieces. Do keep your head up and do a confrontation and discussion with them both individually if you sense something going on within your team. If you are personally in a relationship, do the right thing by making sure that your potential better half is aligned to what you want to do, and also give him/her a deadline and promise as to when this madness would end or when it would signal the beginning of a slightly normal life to begin something personal.
When I was putting together the concept for the startup lunch, and reading about speeddating, the one thing I was thinking was that, those who organize events such as that in their local cities would be the guys who would essentially replace the shaadi.com and the bharatmatrimony of this day and age. And given the epic rise in the entrepreneurial culture, it even might even make business sense to think along those lines! As one who is one among the mass age group, here’s a toast to those who tread the lonely path and do have the heart to make that first step!